Russia magnate Aras Agalarov calls Donald Trump Jr e-mails ‘fiction’; Kremlin denies links

This combination of pictures created on July 12, 2017 shows (L-R) Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during an interview on November 8, 2016 in Moscow, Russian businessman Aras Agalarov at the 2013 Miss USA pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on June 16, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Russian singer Emin Agalarov, son of the Russian businessman Aras Agalarov, at the 2013 Miss USA pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on June 16, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bombshell revelation that President Donald Trump's oldest son Don Jr. met with a Kremlin-tied Russian lawyer hawking damaging material on Hillary Clinton has taken suspicions of election collusion with Moscow to a new level. AFP
Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov said he learned about the meeting from television. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Reuters, AFP) - A Russian billionaire on Wednesday (July 12) dismissed as "fiction" emails released by Donald Trump's eldest son which identify him as a potential middleman for allegedly incriminating Kremlin information on Hillary Clinton.

Released on Tuesday, an email from British music producer to Trump Jr claims an offer was allegedly made by Russia's general prosecutor to provide the Trump campaign with "official documents" on Clinton during a meeting with real estate mogul Aras Agalarov.

Goldstone says the Russian prosecutor "offered to provide the Trump campaign" with "very high level and sensitive information" as "part of Russia and its government's support" for his father.

Goldstone claimed to have been tipped off by Agalarov's pop star son Emin, whom he managed, and he later helped organise a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Trump Jr to discuss the alleged information.

The June 2016 meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, said to be a "Russian government attorney", has thrust Donald Trump Jr into the centre of a growing scandal over whether Trump's associates colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 election in the Republican's favour.

The Agalarov family has established ties to the Trumps and brought the future US leader to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe beauty competition.

'Making it up'

But Agalarov rubbished the emails touting him as a possible go-between for the Trumps and the Kremlin and said he only vaguely knew Goldstone.

"I think this is some sort of fiction. I don't know who is making it up," Agalarov told Russia's Business FM radio station, according to a transcript posted online. "What has Hillary Clinton got to do with anything? I don't know. I really don't know Rob Goldstone well."

In the email exchange which was released by Trump Jr on Tuesday, the president's oldest son suggested he would "love" to get any dirt on Clinton.

US intelligence agencies have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of approving a hacking and influence campaign to sway the vote, claims fiercely denied in Moscow. Trump Jr and two other top campaign officials eventually met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya but both sides insist she provided no information on Clinton.

A publicist for Emin Agalarov directed all questions on the issue to his lawyer.

'Wild' allegations

Separately the Kremlin on Wednesday insisted it was in no way linked to a meeting between Trump Jr and thr Russian lawyer.

"We have already said that we are absolutely not familiar with this whole story," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "We never had any contact with this lawyer, that is why we are not in the loop and have nothing to say. She doesn't have even the slightest relation to us."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was preposterous that Trump Jr was blamed for meeting the Russian lawyer.

Hitting back against accusations of Russian meddling in the 206 US elections, Lavrov asked to be shown "at least one fact"proving Moscow tried to interfere with the democratic process.

"I learned with surprise that a Russian lawyer, a woman, is being blamed and Trump's son is being blamed for meeting. For me, this is wild," Lavrov told a joint news conference with his Belgian counterpart in Brussels.

"Because when any person speaks to a lawyer, what problem or threat could there be? I didn't know about this, I learned about it from television."

The emails released by Trump Jr. on Tuesday are seen by Trump critics as the most concrete evidence yet that Trump campaign officials welcomed Russian help to win the election.

But Lavrov dismissed the media interest in the email release, saying: "It's amazing that serious people are making a mountain out of a molehill."

The Kremlin had on Monday denied links to the lawyer.

Peskov ridiculed claims that Veselnitskaya was working for the Russian government as "inappropriate and absurd". Veselnitskaya herself has also denied she had any damaging information on Hillary Clinton or that she is tied to the Russian authorities.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denounced accusations it meddled in the US election to help get Donald Trump to the White House and Peskov said the allegations resembled a "drawn-out TV series."

US intelligence agencies have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of approving a hacking and influence campaign to sway the vote.

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